Monday, October 25

Confinement and masks take their toll: more myopia in children and dry eyes in adults

How are our eyes after ten months of pandemic? Experts answer: the change of habits with an intensive consumption of technological devices and screens has triggered eye diseases, also among the smallest. Lucía Fernández-Vega, head of the Pediatric Ophthalmology Unit of the Fernández-Vega Ophthalmology Institute, considers that the intense work of near vision, either with screens or with printed books, makes some ocular syndromes more prevalent now, such as dry eye or visual fatigue and, even, that myopia is accentuated, increased or appears in the case of children, something to which, in the opinion of the specialist, contributes to a large extent, the lack of sunlight and effort constant focus close up.

“We have seen an increase in the myopia defect due to the excessive use of near vision and the few moments of going abroad, but in children already diagnosed we have not detected a worsening, since our clinic has not stopped attending no urgency at any time during the pandemic ”, emphasizes Fernández-Vega, who recommends avoiding the excessive use of screens among children to protect their eyesight.

“The intense work of near vision has an impact on our eye health, both for adults and children, and can cause dry eyes and an increase in the prevalence of myopia. That is why we recommend that these near vision activities be alternated with others that require focusing in the distance, such as going outdoors for example, ”he says.

Eye dryness was a disorder that already had a high incidence before the coronavirus crisis, since 21.6% of the population over 40 years old suffered from it, according to data from the Spanish Society of Ocular Surface and Cornea. And now, the use of the mask is increasing the cases or exacerbating them since, through the upper part of the mask, an air flow emerges that reaches our eyes continuously throughout the time that we wear it.

This can cause symptoms such as the sensation of having a foreign body or grit in the eye, dry and / or red eyes, itching and stinging, tearing, heavy eyes and inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis). “To prevent dry eyes, which is one of the main reasons for ophthalmology consultation today, we must take certain precautions. For example, we make sure that the upper part of the mask fits snugly, so that the air comes out from the sides or below it ”, Cinfa experts recommend.

At a general level, according to Lucía Fernández-Vega, the symptoms that indicate that something is wrong in our eyes can be very diverse, depending on the pathology to which they are associated. But, How to find out if a child has eye health problems? “The way to find out if a child has eye health problems is by having a complete ophthalmological examination. Patients with myopic relatives should be monitored from childhood and the family should have an impact, especially, in preschool and early school age. In general, it is recommended that children have periodic check-ups from 3 years of age if no eye problems have previously occurred. We must pay attention if we notice that they get very close to things or that they wink their eyes when they fixate on something. Also if they suffer frequent headaches, as they can be a sign that the child has problems ”, recommends the specialist, who advises that children and adolescents carry out their schoolwork in an orderly area, in an open, wide space with windows.

Also, note, they should avoid getting too close to the paper or screen when performing tasks such as reading, writing or drawing.

“It is important that they carry out, like adults, the 20-20-20 rule, every twenty minutes of close work, whether reading or studying with screens or printed books, they should rest twenty seconds looking into the distance twenty feet ; that is, six meters away, thus relaxing close-up vision. We also recommend alternating these near vision work activities with spending more time outdoors, as it can protect against the onset of myopia ”, he also points out.

The advice, therefore, of the head of the Pediatric Ophthalmology Unit of the Fernández-Vega Ophthalmology Institute to minimize the effects of the current confinement or semi-confinement situation are the following: reduce the use of near vision, maintain as much as possible the outdoor activities to reduce the impact and delay the onset of myopia in children, comply with the 20-20-20 rule, blink voluntarily with a certain frequency, regulate the brightness of electronic devices, maintain correct lighting of the Work or leisure area to avoid straining your eyes, maintain correct posture, reduce excessive use of contact lenses, do not rub your eyes and maintain healthy habits, such as avoiding tobacco consumption or following a balanced diet: “Elements such as Omega 3 and vitamins A, C and E are beneficial for our visual health ”, concludes the specialist.

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